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Happy returns as Murray begins defence with straight-sets win

A forehand stroke from Andy Murray
by Alix Ramsay
Monday 23 June 2014

Great moments in British tennis history and London buses: they are like two peas in a pod. With the buses, you wait for ages to see one and then, lo and behold, two come along at once. It is much the same with the tennis.

For decades – and decades and decades – the hopeful hordes had waited in vain. Would they ever in their lifetime see a British man win in SW19? And then along comes Andy Murray last summer and breaks the drought, grabs the trophy and a grateful nation rejoices.

But if, last summer, it had been 77 years since Fred Perry last won at Wimbledon, this year it had been 78 years since the Centre Court faithful could cheer a British champion back to begin the defence of his title. (Fred turned pro at the end of 1936 so never came back to defend his third and final Wimbledon crown.) So, twice in less than 12 months we had had a moment of history to cherish as Murray opened proceedings on Centre Court on the first Monday of The Championships. Oh, and just for good measure, he was playing – and marmalising – David Goffin 6-1, 6-4, 7-5.

There had been a buzz about the place all morning. The Royal Box eschewed their second helpings of strawberries at lunch and duly filed into position in good time for the entrance of the gladiators. The crowd had been watching and waiting, eating and tweeting for hours. And then, at 1pm precisely (precision is everything at Wimbledon), the roar went up – the Muzz had been spotted. To a standing ovation (even those in the posh seats jumped to their feet to give the local hero a cheer), the champion walked back to the scene of his most famous triumph and prepared to do it all over again.

The nice people of Wimbledon had come up with a nifty idea to mark the moment. They may be the most traditional of clubs but they do move with the times and from the moment the Muzz’s toes touched the hallowed turf, anyone who tweeted @Wimbledon with the hashtag (and who knew the Wimbledon committee knew about hashtags?) #WelcomeBackAndy, they were in for a treat. They would receive one of the five digital photos of their boy winning last year. Not only that, but it would be autographed with a unique message from the champion, personalised to their own twitter handle. Go on and give it a try – it’s easy. Even the Luddites of the press corps have worked out how to do it.

For the past year, Murray had been bombarded with questions about how he would feel when he came back to the Centre Court. And, poor bloke, he had no answer: he had never defended a Wimbledon title before. He knew he would be nervous – he always is before start of a major championship – but as for anything else, he did not have a clue. All he did know was that it would take a couple of games to shake the nerves from his racket arm and then, he predicted, by around 1.30pm, he ought to have an idea of how he was playing.

Following the schedule with Wimbledon’s military precision, by 1.30pm, he was a break up and standing happily at 4-1 in the first set. He was playing just fine. That was when he relaxed and started to apply some pressure, play like a bloke who knew how to win on this court and take complete control. It turns out that defending a Wimbledon title was not quite as terrifying as some might have thought.

“In terms of the way I struck the ball today, it was a good start,” Murray said. “I was nervous today, I was nervous yesterday and walking to the court today, it brought back a lot of nice memories. I got a nice round of applause but once you sit down in the chair, it is time to move on from last year.”

Goffin spent a good deal of the match looking as if he had wandered onto the wrong court. Allegedly, he stands 5ft 11in tall but he may have been standing on tippy-toes when he was being measured. With his boyish looks (if he shaved off that designer stubble, he might just get away with a half fare on one of those London buses we were talking about earlier), he does not look like a professional of six years standing and with a world ranking of 105, he does not look like a chap who will trouble the big boys consistently.

Sure enough, after a couple of sets of fluffed forehands Goffin was in serious trouble and even if he made a much better fist of things in the third set – Murray slowed down just a touch and started to mumble and mutter around the baseline – he could not find a way to spoil the champion’s comeback party. After two hours and two minutes, the moment of history had passed and Murray was safely through to meet Blaz Rola on Wednesday. He will sleep easy tonight – he had made history for the second year running and all was well with his world. 

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